Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Sharrows in Long Beach

(For various reasons I have had several unfinished posts sitting in my queue on Blogger. This is the second of three old posts that I am finally finishing.)

Saturday was the official opening of the "sharrows" in Long Beach. Sharrows are green-painted lanes in the right-hand lane of traffic. These lanes denote where cyclists are legally allowed to ride (whether painted or not) per the California vehicle code.

Of course, since most motorists don't know (or maybe even care) about California vehicle code as it applies to cyclists, the sharrows are a great way of showing people where cyclists can legally ride. My main hope is that automobile drivers start to understand cyclists rights and that cyclists using the sharrows obey all traffic laws.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Crazy Team Time Trial

After failing once again to break the 25 MPH barrier in the Southern California/Nevada District Individual Time Trial Championships, I found myself on the starting line a week later with three teammates (Todd Barker, Greg Page, and Jeff Scanlon) for the Team Time Trial Championships -- 4-men 180+ (cumulative age of riders at least 180 years). It was a very strange race.

The team that started 1 minute ahead of us was led by one of my oldest racing buddies, Craig Jones. (There was a small amount of trash talking right before the start.) The team that was 1 minute behind us was one of the mighty Amgen Masters Team.

We got a nice clean start and we went a couple of hundred yards down the road where we see Craig's team pulled over on the side of the road. It turns out that one of his teammates on a bike with horizontal, track-style dropouts, had his wheel pull to the side -- more on this later. We didn't want to start too hot so we settled into a comfortable pace (for me) and wouldn't you know it, Craig's team comes barreling past us.

A little bit about the course. It is a rectangle with two 6 mile straights and two 2-1/2 mile straights. You start just out of turn 4, do a lap and then finish just before turn 1. You end up with about 23.1 miles.

Before we got to turn 1 (6 miles into the race) a couple more things occur: Jeff, who is usually pretty strong, is already missing turns and having trouble getting back in line and the Amgen team comes flying past us. For the less initiated, flying is faster than barreling.

We get around turn 1 and Jeff, who had ended up on my wheel at that point, completely fell off the back. I called out to the other two to wait and we kind of slowed down but it became obvious within a minute that he was not going to get back on so away we went.

So now we're in 3-man mode and wouldn't you know it, we're catching Craig's team. We get on to the long back straight and we pass them just before a small hill. We get over the hill and they pass us. I think we passed them again but they passed us back pretty quickly. The problem is while we were going at a pretty steady pace, one of their guys is hurting and another is also not so good so they kept going fast then slow. We decided to stay behind them until after turn 3.

The 2-1/2 miles between turns 3 and 4 was pretty eventful. Craig's team seems to recover a bit and they are staying comfortably ahead of us but a team that started 4 minutes behind us passes us and then another Amgen team (with Thurlows Rogers) comes by us in a blur. We get to turn 4 and come out of it pretty well and for some reason, Craig's team is really slow and we almost ride into them.

After that small bit of confusion we all get going with them still in front of us. Something happens to them again, they slow, and my teammate, Todd, swerves to avoid them. I'm second wheel and I just miss Todd. For some reason they pass us again and now I'm getting a little frustrated. It gets to my pull and I take a long and faster pull to get around them. Finally we've passed them for good.

Unfortunately, I'm medium rare at that point and I end up sitting out a pull so I don't blow completely. I take a pull and then sit out another. Fortunately, Greg and Todd take up my slack without too much trouble. From there we're good to go and ride pretty smoothly to the finish.

Oh, and that wheel pulling issue on Craig's team ended up not being completely resolved. They finished just a bit behind us and as we were jawing, we saw that the guy's rear wheel was slightly rubbing the frame again. The adjuster screw had pushed out of his generic, carbon frame.

I was hoping that we could go under 51 minutes since we had done a 51:13 for a 27.0 MPH average last year. Unfortunately we ended up with a 51:46 for 26.7 MPH. Last year we were 3rd out of 11 teams. This year we were 5th out of 7 and we were over 1-1/2 minutes behind 4th.

At least we had fun.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Extreme Riding on Mt. Lemmon

(For various reasons I have had several unfinished posts sitting in my queue on Blogger. This is the first of three old posts that I am finally finishing.)

Epic is becoming one of the great overused words of our time. With so many extreme approaches to sports, people frequently talk or write about their 'epic' adventures. While I am not impervious to hyperbole, I feel that I had a truly epic cycling adventure while we were on vacation in Tucson, AZ. This ride is one that will remained etched in my memory for the rest of my life and it will be difficult for the tale to become embellished because the truth is pretty extreme.

We went to Tucson during Spring Break in mid-April to celebrate my Mother-in-Law's birthday. Since we drove there I was able to bring my bike and I managed to ride every day that we were there.

While looking on the web and inquiring on cycling web forums, I discovered that THE ride in the area is Mt. Lemmon. After balancing family activities against riding time, I reserved Wednesday for my ride up the mountain. However, I was not going to attempt this roughly 60 mile ride with about 6,000 feet of climbing without at least previewing part of the climb.

On Sunday, our first full day in Tucson, I met up with a club and rode the first 12 miles of the climb which got me to an altitude of 4,800 feet and about 2,300 feet of climbing. As an aside, the members of this club were friendly, generally my age, and some were very fast (faster than me at least). What I learned was the climb was pretty comparable to what I've ridden in Southern California. So far, so good.

Monday and Tuesday I got in some good rides in beautiful weather. Little did I know that my luck was not going to last. A weather front was literally blowing through Tucson on Wednesday. The forecast was not promising with high gusty winds. I thought that perhaps I could get up the mountain before the weather got too bad.

As usual (unfortunately), I got a slightly late start. I started rolling about a half hour after I had originally planned. I was glad to have some familiarity with the road from my Sunday ride but as I climbed up past my Sunday turnaround the wind started picking up.

When I left the parking lot at the start the weather was pretty pleasant and I was wearing a short sleeve jersey. As the wind got stronger and the altitude increased, the temperature got colder. Somewhere above 5,000 ft, there was a vista turnout and I took the opportunity to put on arm warmers and take a couple of photos.

As I continued up the wind got worse. The road was twisting around the mountain so that I had the full variety of headwind, tailwind, and cross-wind.

As I climbed I thought that maybe the prudent thing to do would be to turn around. Of course, when it comes to cycling, I'm not good at being prudent. Somewhere around 7,000 ft of altitude I was rounding a sharp corner on a fairly steep grade when the mother of all headwind gusts hit me. It was all I could do to unclip, get my foot down, and brace myself against the wind without falling over. I stood there for what felt like several minutes trying to figure out if I could go forward or if I should just turn around.

Of course, I decided to move forward. The weather really didn't get any better but it wasn't getting worse either. I got to a point where the road started to go downhill and in this case it unfortunately had a strong tailwind. I was desperately trying to control my speed going downhill when I saw this sign and stopped for another photo.

I figured that if I died on the mountain someone would find the camera and see that I'd made it that far.

It turned out to be several more miles of uphill, downhill, and high winds to reach the small town of Summerhaven. The main street through town was like a wind tunnel as I rode past several closed stores and restaurants. I found a general store that was open and I went in for a bit of respite from the wind and to get some hot tea or cocoa.

The woman behind the counter didn't even flinch when I entered. I looked around a bit and got some tea. She asked me where I had started and I told her where while expecting some kind of remark like, "You've got to be kidding." Instead she said something like, "Well, it sure is windy," and went back about her business of re-stocking some shelves.

I also tried calling my wife who was out sightseeing and shopping with my kids and her parents. I got her voice-mail and I made the mistake of leaving a somewhat incoherent message to the effect that the weather was really bad and that I hoped to make back down the mountain safely. Of course riding back down safely was the primary objective, but that wasn't a good thing to say on the phone.

The ride back was slow but not as excruciating as the ride up. I encountered the situation hated by many cyclists where the wind is strong enough that you have to pedal downhill, but that was far better than the couple of downhill sections where the wind was at my back. Fortunately, my brakes were up to the task. What surprised me most was seeing a couple of other riders heading up the mountain as I was going down. I don't think that the wind was dying down.

The last couple of miles down to the shopping center where I parked were fine. The sun was out and the wind at the base of the mountain was tolerable. I went to a coffee place in the shopping center and got a fruit smoothie and a pastry. Spent a few minutes refreshing myself, posing, and contemplating why I do things like this.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My Road Bicycle History

I frequent the web site Yesterday, one of the denizens of the forum asked people to post their history of road bike ownership. After spending a fair amount of time remembering and looking at some old bicycle brochures, here's my list beginning at the start of my racing "career." (Note that I bought the bike during the model year listed unless otherwise noted.)
  • 1974 Lambert Pro: One of the finest British racing bikes ever built (not). Started out with plastic Simplex rear derailleur, ended up with a Shimano Crane. Eventually put it out of my misery by cracking the head tube. I weighed about 120 lbs soaking wet at the time.
  • 1975 Bianchi Specialissima: Purchased in June 1976 and I still have the frame and a couple of original parts on it. It was originally all Campy Nuovo Record. This is probably the bike that I rode the most -- more than 40K miles.
  • 1980 Medici Pro Strada: Truly the one bike that I wish I never sold. It was essentially a Masi Gran Criterium as it was built by former Masi builder Gian Simonetti. I put a mix of Shimano and Sun Tour parts on it. It did have a Campy seat clamp bolt on it. This was my first racing-only bike.
  • 1984(?) Basso (something-or-other): This was a straight gauge Columbus frame that I built using most of the parts off of the 1975 Bianchi. I built it as a training bike as the Bianchi had seen better days by then.
  • 1985 Vitus 979: Built it with a combination of Sun Tour and Galli parts as a race rig. I got it pretty cheap as I was a bike shop employee at the time (don't ask). It was a noodle but I weighed less than 130 lbs. back then so it was bearable for racing.
  • 1985 Olmo (I-can't-remember): Built it with the same combination of parts as the Vitus used it as a training bike. It was a Columbus SL frame and many will argue that it was a better bike than the Vitus. I won't argue that point. I also got this with a bike shop employee discount. It replaced the Basso.
  • 1986 Shogun Kazé: TT funny bike that I eventually rebuilt using most of the parts off of the Vitus. It was my first TT-specific bike. It's still sitting in my garage. Did a few sub 1hr 1 min TTs on it but I could never quite get under 1 hr.
  • 1988 Serotta Colorado: This was the best steel frame that I have ever owned. =D> Built it with a combination of Shimano Dura Ace and Santé components. It was my first bike with index shifting and I used the Santé derailleurs because my local wrench said that they would work well with the plethora of Sun Tour freewheels that I had (and still have) at the time. He was right. I eventually rebuilt the bike with 2005 Campy Record-8 components -- my first bike with ergo shifting. This replaced the Vitus.
  • 1990 Stowe Triad: This bike is still sitting in my garage and I haven't ridden it for ages. For some reason I haven't had any luck selling it and I tried almost everything except ebay. I built the bike with mostly the same parts that I originally had on the Serotta. It still has most of those parts. I have a funny story about Robert Stowe but I'll save it for another time. This bike replaced the Olmo as my training bike.
  • 1997 Bianchi Megatube Ti: This was the original Megatube Ti with the large "aero" fabricated and welded downtube. It was my 40th birthday present from my wife. I built it with 1996 Campy Record-8 components. This bike became my "race" bike (I wasn't racing much at the time) and my Serotta moved to the training bike role. More to follow on this frame.
  • 2000 Bianchi XL EV2 Al: I bought this frame when I cracked the down tube on the Serotta. I put most of the components from the Serotta on this frame and it became my race bike while the 1997 Bianchi migrated to training bike status. This was when I started racing more seriously again as my kids were starting to get older.
  • 2001 Bianchi XL Ti: I got this frame in 2002 as a warranty replacement for the 1997 Bianchi (which developed crack on the seat tube right at the weld for the front derailleur hanger). Put the parts on it from that bike and it was my training bike for a few years. I put Record-10 on it in 2003.
  • 2002 Look KG381i: I got this on clearance in 2003 and built it with 2003 Record-10 (skipped 9-speed). This and the subsequent Look KG481SL had the best stock geometry fit of any bike I've owned. It replaced the 2000 Bianchi as my race bike.
  • 2000 Quattro Assi Team 2000: I bought this in 2002 as a cheap TT frame (< $500) to replace the Shogun. Built it piece by piece by looking for sales and on ebay for Chorus parts. This is the worst riding bike that I've ever owned, hands down.
  • 2005 Look KG481SL: I did a double swap on components when I built this bike. The low mileage parts on the Look KG381i went on this bike and the higher mileage parts from the Bianchi XL Ti went on the other Look. I really liked this bike.
  • 2006 Look 565: I got this frame in 2007 as a warranty replacement for the KG381i (which developed corrosion issues at the tube to lug interface). I ended up with the wrong size but rode it about 2,500 miles in about six months as my training bike before I sold it. It rode pretty well but it really shined on descents.
  • 2007 Bianchi D2 Crono Carbon: I got a deal on this frame from my LBS that I couldn't refuse. OK, I could have refused it but I was lusting after this frame from the first time that I saw it and I hated the Quattro Assi. I built it with almost all of the parts from the Quattro Assi. I just put new bars and wheels on it. Who said you can't buy a sub 1 hr, 40K TT?
  • 2007 Serotta Attack: I got this as my 50th birthday present to myself. Built it with 2006 Record-10. I raced on it at the end of 2007 and for all of 2008. I love how this bike rides. It's the best bike I've ever owned and my first custom geometry frame. Towards the end of 2008 I started getting paranoid about racing on this bike. I have never worried about crashing a bike before and I didn't like racing with that thought in the back of my head so I sold the KG481SL (which had rotated to training bike status) and...
  • 2009 Cervélo R3: At the end of 2008, I bought my current race rig with 2008 Record-10. I like this thing well enough but the handling doesn't inspire me (yet) -- probably because the Serotta rides so well. Really didn't do the weight weenie thing when I built it but it comes in at 14.6 lbs with heavy Look delta pedals.

That's my road bike history. There are a couple of mountain bikes, track bikes, and other miscellaneous bikes mixed in there but I'll stop here. ;)

Monday, April 06, 2009

My Season To-Date

I guess I don't have to knock on wood any longer. For the past two winters, I've been able to train pretty effectively because I've been able to avoid the dreaded influenza virus. (Note that I get a free flu shot at work every year.) My "lucky" streak finally ended (even though I had flu-like symptoms last summer), when I came down with a strain of the flu while on a business trip in St. Louis in mid-February. At the time I felt fortunate that the symptoms did not involve any significant respiratory distress -- the thing that usually inhibits my riding long after I'm done with the flu.

Unfortunately, this variant of the flu really seemed to sap me all of the early season race fitness that I had built. Of the 14 mass start races that I've entered so far this year, I've failed to finish (DNF) in 5 of them. By comparison I finished 40 out of 45 races last year.

I was encouraged a bit last Tuesday when I was able to throw in a couple of attacks and still stay with the field (after I was caught). I thought that I might have reached a turning point. That optimism was short-lived as I DNF'ed 2 out of 3 races this past weekend.

So have there been any high points?

Well, despite the pretty mediocre results of this past weekend, I did participate in the first Long Beach Bicycle Grand Prix held in the heart of the city. It was a very cool race and I was able to stay and watch the pros in the last race of the day. Also, I ended up competing in 3 races all within a 24 hour period.

I take my small "victories" where I can.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Systems Thinking and the Recession

This morning I heard an interview with Robert Reich (former US Secretary of Labor) on one of our local Public Radio stations on the program, Marketplace Morning Report. Mr. Reich notes:
"But what's intelligent for an individual does not necessarily translate into what's good for the economy as a whole. The only way to create or preserve jobs is through additional spending. And unlike tax cuts used to pay down personal debt or add to savings, every dollar of government spending flows directly into the economy and adds to overall demand."
Optimizing your personal financial situation in the short term sub-optimizes our country's economy in the long term and probably hurts you as an individual in the long term too. We have to think systemically when it comes to repairing our economy and keeping it healthy. Pursuing individual wealth without thinking about the whole is what got us into the condition that we currently face.

It is Easy Being Green

My wife and I are fans of the television show, Living with Ed. Ed Begley, Jr. is kind of a nut on the show, but if you think about all of the things that he does to minimize his family's impact on the environment, you'll find that you can do many of them with relative ease. Some are easy, but require an investment. Others you can do inexpensively and with a relatively quick payback.

Here is a list of things that my wife and I do (the kids are another story) to try to be better citizens on this little blue ball:
  • Solar panels for generating electricity: During the day we make electricity for the neighborhood using the sun and we save a lot of money on our electric bill. There are a lot of cash rebates and tax credits associated with the purchase and installation of electric solar panels.
  • Computers and computer accessories plugged into electrical surge suppressors with on/off switches: A lot of your computer peripherals, like external hard drives with AC adapters and monitors, continue to draw power even when they are "off." Flip the switch on the surge suppressor to off after you've turned off your computer. Be careful with inkjet printers and your high speed internet modem. Those items may need to be plugged into a continuous power source.
  • AC power adapters for cell phones, handheld games, MP3 players, etc plugged into a simple power strip: Similar to the computer, these adapters draw power even when they aren't hooked up to anything. Turn them off completely by switching off the power strip. Remeber, if you see a glowing LED, the item is drawing power.
  • Recycle everything that the city will take and everything that you can bring to the local recycling center: Don't throw anything into the trash that you can recycle. Our goal is to always have at least twice as much recycling (by weight) as we do trash each week. Just be careful not to put non-recycleables in with the recycleables. Certain items can ruin a batch of recycling if they get into the recycling mix.
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of standard incandescent bulbs: This is pretty much a no-brainer, when your standard light bulb burns out replace it with a compact fluorescent. If you remember the days when fluorescent bulbs made you look green, don't worry, they give off light that looks very much like an incandescent now.
  • Don't buy or use bottled water: I don't know how many studies we have to conduct to see that our municipal water supplies provide water that is of similar or better quality than bottled water. Purchase a small, washable, and reusable water bottle so that you can bring water with you when needed.
  • Use recycled paper in your computer printer: For almost all uses these days (business or personal) recycled paper works just fine.
  • Better yet, don't print: There are already too many jokes about people who print their emails -- just don't do it.
  • Turn off lights: Your parents were right -- sort of -- it's a good idea for saving money, but it's also a good idea that reduces our need to produce electricity from coal-burning electric plants.
  • Water your lawn less: Lawns are some of the biggest uses of water for most homeowners. You can actually get away with less watering and still have a green lawn.
  • Reuse plastic sandwhich and freezer bags: We definitely use plastic bags in our household, but we try to reuse them as much as possible in a variety of ways.
  • Neither paper or plastic: Bring a cloth bag or a bag made from recycled materials with you when you go shopping. Or you can be like Ed and just carry your purchases out of the store in your hands.
  • Drive a hybrid or electric car: If you need a new car and can afford a hybrid, then buy one. I predict that all cars will eventually be hybrid or all electric within 20 years. It's not just about saving gas. Think about all of the tailpipe emissions when your sitting stuck in traffic. A gas-electric hybrid turns of the gas engine when the car is stopped. When the engine isn't running there are no hydrocarbons coming out of the exhaust pipe.
  • Walk or ride a bike for trips less than one mile: Especially where we live, Southern California, mass transit is not always convenient. However, you'd be surprised how often you drive less than a mile. Walking distances less than a mile doesn't take a lot of extra time and it's good for you.
I'll be adding to this list over time as there are a lot more simple things each of us can do to make the planet last a little longer for the generations after us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Embracing Change

Hope, inspiration, freedom, and change are some themes from today's inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama. I watched a Presidential Inauguration live on TV for the first time in my life. It was inspirational and it did give me hope.

I voted for Barack Obama but what is most heartening for me is to hear positive comments from people I know who did not vote for him. I think we have a real leader as President -- someone who will lead us into a changing world with a positive perspective.

I am posting this image as part of my personal commitment to embracing this new administration.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Good Start to the 2009 Cycling Season

It didn't look like I was going to get in a good ride today as I woke up on New Year's Day to a very foggy morning. I don't like to ride in the fog because:
  • It's more dangerous with people driving not being able to see you
  • I can't see because the fog collects on my prescription glasses
  • My bike gets dirty
However, it was New Year's Day and I didn't want to start the year sitting on my butt. So in my best attempt to HTFU, I headed out to meet my club. My intent was to ride 100 Km (62 miles) with a bit of climbing. I stayed with my club as we headed south for about 25 miles and then I continued further south to Laguna Beach. It was still cold (to me) and foggy.

I turned back north and headed up Newport Coast Drive to begin the real climbing for the day. About 1/3 of the way up Newport Coast the sun came out and I completed my climbs up Ridge Park Road (10% grade for a mile) and Spyglass Hill.

After getting back on to PCH and getting into Newport Beach, the fast guys from the annual New Year's Day "melee" ride caught me. I got on to the back of the ride and spent the next 10 miles going 25-30 MPH. I came off the back and rode the final 7 miles home at a saner pace. Regardless, I was happy that I was able to get through those 10 miles with a draft rather than battling the wind alone.

I ended up with 63.9 miles in 3 hours and 41 minutes (riding time) for an average speed of 17.3 MPH. I also managed to eek out 2,270 feet of climbing. All-in-all, a good way to start the year.

Where I've Been